George Osborne – be very afraid

This Tuesday George Osborne gave speech at Imperial College London this week, explaining how the Conservatives are going to spearhead the green revolution with a recycling reward scheme. It’s complete madness, although Telegraph columnists seem to like it – or more likely aren’t clued up enough to see the problem.

Apparently he’ll cut carbon emissions by 10% within a year. Great! But how? He doesn’t say, but I’m sure we’ll all be interested to learn in good time. However, the incredible recycling plans that followed don’t exactly encourage me to believe he’s got any good ideas.

“Carrots work better than sticks. Instead of punishing people, as Labour do with bin taxes, the Conservatives want to encourage families by paying them to recycle.

This isn’t an idle promise – we’re actually making it happen on the ground in Conservative areas. Now we want to make it happen everywhere.”

Apparently they’re going to reward recycling households with vouchers to spend at, wait for it, Tesco and Marks and Spencer! One of the best ways I can think of to cut down non-recyclable domestic refuse is to close down M+S, who were easily the worst offenders when it came to stupid packaging (see blogs passim).

But it gets worse. Apparently they’re going to make this work with some new miraculous technology. Dustcarts will be fitted with a gizmo that scans the contents of the recycling bin, works out the address the items came from and allocates “recycling points” to your account in a special database. Methinks he’s been watching too much Star Trek. Why don’t politicians ever bother talking to engineers before opening their mouths and spouting such fantastic nonsense?

Incidentally, if you’re not an engineer, fair enough – but take it from me that this will never work as described.

However, whether it works or not, they’re spectacularly missing the point. Recycling isn’t the answer. They should be looking at ways for reducing waste in the first place, and there’s precious little evidence of that. In fact this encourages even more waste by rewarding people to manage to fill their recycling bin with £130. It’s potty! Anyone taking the incentive seriously might, for example, switch to disposable plates and cutlery just to ensure their bin is always topped up.

So who’s responsible for this nonsense? Well apparently the Conservatives now have Tesco, BT and B+Q (part of Kingfisher) on board as advisers on environmental issues. Need I say more?

Meanwhile Labour Health Secretary Andy Burnham launched a report saying we should cut down on livestock rearing and meat consumption to save greenhouse gasses and improve people’s health. Now Labour has the skids under them they’re talking sense, although I doubt they’d be so candid if they thought they’d actually ever have to sell the idea to the farming industry or those hooked on eating cheap meat.

Overdraft charges ruling

“The People’s” wonderful new Supreme Court has ruled that the Office of Fair Trading can’t investigate the rip-off fees charged by banks for unauthorised overdrafts. “Quite right”, chorus the smug idiots, “we’ve always got enough money in our accounts!”

The British Bankers Association is, of course, delighted. It had been putting out the propaganda that customers would be charged for simply having bank accounts if they lost, because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to make a profit. Hello?!? That’s not how banks operate and they should be ashamed of themselves. And the smug rich people should be ashamed too – if their argument is correct then their free banking is being subsidised by the poor. (Incidentally, in case no one’s told you before, banks make a profit by paying savers a lower interest than borrowers, lending out considerably more than is deposited I might add, and pocketing the difference).

It’s a practical necessity to have a bank account if you live in this country, and banks are clearly exploiting this fact. Would the (old) Law Lords not have done something about this obvious problem?

And as for the numerous spokespersons for the banking industry trotting out statistics that this issue doesn’t affect most customers anyway, they must be joking! As well as the financially challenged, this affects everyone who’s paid in a cheque that’s bounced, everyone who’s suffered a bank error and everyone who’s employer has messed up the payroll run (often a problem with the bank themselves). It’s really easy to end up overdrawn on a current account, through no fault of your own, even if you have plenty of spare cash with the bank in a deposit account. This two-account approach is necessitated by the customer-unfriendly ‘financial product’ culture the banks themselves operate.

The people who are going to suffer from this are the normal hard-working types who operate through a current account and save a little for a rainy day. One simple mistake made by someone else and they’re stuck with a load of ridiculous charges. If you’ve got a lot of money in your deposit account, a quick call threatening to move your cash elsewhere gets rapid results. If you’re not in this happy position I wouldn’t rate your bargaining power.

The banks should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, but I expect they’re too busy pocketing their taxpayer-underwritten bonuses to even notice.

It’s no surprise that New Labour is letting them get away with it, but there’s a deafening silence coming from the other parties too. Scared to upset the bankers?

Bank of England Fraudulant Accounts scandal

So, the Government/Bank of England lent £61,000,000,000 to prop up the Scottish banks last year and didn’t think we should know about it. It didn’t appear with any clarity in the accounts, and I’ve just been listening to “Lord” Myners, Gordon Brown’s “Treasury Minister” defending this on Today, saying that “…no retail bank customers lost out.” So that’s alright then?

As usual, he was let off lightly. The Bank of England is publishing cooked books, and the justification is that it’s for the greater good. What I’d like to know is: what’s the point of publishing accounts if they’re deliberately misleading? Or more accurately, dishonest.

The government seems to think it’s okay to lie to us whenever it feels that we’re better off not knowing something. And you can hardly call £61,000,000,000 a trivial issue that’s easily overlooked by mistake, can you? Well perhaps it is to Gordon Brown and his banking mates. No wonder they fail to see any problems with their expense claims.

According to Myners, the board of Lloyds was made aware of the loan at the time they were merging with HBOS in those murky circumstances. So what? Lloyd’s isn’t owned by the board – the Lloyds shareholders had every right to know, but they decided to keep quiet about it. They were tricked into voting for a merger with a bank that was only propped up by a massive secret loan.

Paul Myners is, of course, a New Labour Lord, given a peerage by Gordon Brown after donating £12,700 towards his leadership campaign in 2008. He hasn’t been elected by anyone other than the Labour Leadership.

The fundamental issue here is that if any company published cooked books, concealing a £61,000,000,000 transaction, they’d have the serious fraud office all over them – and rightly so. This government, on the other hand, thinks it knows best and will only tell us what it thinks we should know. Sounds familiar?

Of course, plenty of people must have known about it and kept quiet. So why has the news come out now? Presumably someone was about to spill the beans and they’ve published as the least-worst option.

Digital Economy Bill

As we all know, the Queen’s Speech yesterday was written by Gordon Brown and contained a fantastic list of things he’d do should the British public ever elect him as Prime Minister. While everyone was falling about laughing at the idea of new laws to make both budget deficits child poverty illegal, you might have missed some gems from Digital Economy Bill, which was announced today and will be published tomorrow (Friday).

In verbiage reminiscent of Wilson’s “White heat of technology” twaddle, the Queen was obliged to say:


“My government will introduce a bill to ensure the communications infrastructure is fit for the digital age, supports future economic growth, delivers competitive communications and enhances public service broadcasting.”

The actual bill appears to include such ideas as the £6/year tax on all land telephone lines (why not mobiles?) to ensure that everyone in Britain can get 2Mbps broadband by 2012. Do these politicians understand what the term ‘broadband’ means? Why should we be subsidising the infrastructure for ISPs who’ll be charging us whatever the like for the use of the new network we’ll be paying for in this extra tax.

Perhaps the biggest ‘idea’ is a clampdown on Internet based piracy. New Labour’s sleazy spin-doctor Peter Mandelson was on about this recently, and it’s going to be in the bill. Apparently persistent offenders will get a series of stiff letters and the ISP will eventually pull the plug on them. Get real! Anyone with the slightest idea how the Internet works knows that you can’t tell whether material transiting a network is subject to copyright. You can’t even tell what it is! No amount of legislation will change that.

On the same tack, children are going to be protected by making it illegal for video game retailers to sell games intended for over 12’s to under 12’s. That’s really going to work. The government can’t keep hard drugs out of a prison, so how are they going to stop anyone getting hold of dubious video games.

Another nice little earner for the treasury is switching over to digital radio by 2015. If you thought updating to digital TV was bad, they now want you to scrap all your radios too. Including those in cars? DAB radios use 20 times the power of simple FM receivers – not exactly a green idea either.

I do hope that whoever wins the election next year will ditch these stupid ideas, but do the conservatives have any better idea about what the Internet really is?

Helen Goodman – Labour’s most sexist minister

Amidst the hysterical hand-wringing over the MP’s expenses scandal there’s still plenty to be dug from the deep vein of genuine stupidity that is our government. To be clear, these are appointed by the prime minister to run the country, and are presumably the best New Labour has to offer.

The latest is Work and Pensions minister Helen Goodman (salary £96K per year). She’s attacked the new rules on expenses, claiming that the ban on funding domestic cleaning staff will prevent her and other women from becoming MPs, and is therefore sexist. Her stated assumption is that only women do domestic chores and therefore the ban on cleaners will affect women MPs disproportionately. If her’s isn’t a sexist attitude I don’t know what is.

She was appointed in June this year, and has yet to be sacked. In fact Gordon Brown and her colleagues don’t seem to have reacted at all to her utterances on the matter.

Her expenses fraud history, as revealed by the Daily Telegraph, involved claiming for some hotel receipts that pre-dated her election as an MP. On top of which there was £500 for a holiday cottage, which she maintained was necessary for her work. Her constituents in Bishop Auckland will, presumably, vote for anything with a red rosette stuck on it.

Patricia Scotland – what about the housekeeper?

Patricia ScotlandPatricia Scotland (or Baroness Scotland as she apparently likes to be known) was made a peer by the Blair government in 1997. She didn’t actually turn up much in the Lords (too busy being a QC) but nonetheless has ended up as Attorney General.

I’d like to see her sacked.

But not because of this row about employing an illegal immigrant. Big deal – she didn’t follow the procedure. This isn’t a case of dishonesty, is it?

It’s highly embarrassing for Labour, of course. Their ludicrous laws, rushed through with little or no sensible scrutiny and based on populist opinion rather than fairness and common sense have been making innocent people’s lives a misery for years. It’s no surprise that she can’t follow the rules. Who can?

So chuck her out for being partly responsible for these daft laws in the first place. Unless, of course, she really does see the error of her ways and starts a process to repeal them. I won’t hold my breath.

However, the press and politicians (opposition and own side) have got their teeth into her, and that’s all they can talk about.

What you don’t hear anyone talking about the person she employed: Loloahi Tapui. Let’s just take a look at the facts as we know them.

Tapui applied to work for Scotland as a housekeeper, and Scotland checked her documentation and found it in order. Scotland has said this clearly, and the court accepted it. What she did not do is keep a photocopy, and it is because of this that she was fined. However, from this we can conclude that Tapui lied about her status and presented false documents to Scotland at the start of her employment. The documents must have existed to have been checked, but they cannot have been genuine.

So Scotland is the victim of a crime here. Tapui set out to deceive her in order to gain employment and obtained forged paperwork.

Tapui is here illegally. I expect she’s still here. Hitting Scotland with the maximum £5000 might do something to serve her right for producing such stupid laws in the first place. But what of Tapui? She’s the dishonest one. Lock her up with hard labour and then deport her back from whence she came? I haven’t heard of that happening. I haven’t even heard that she’s been charged. Have you?

Margaret Haywood vs. Nursing Establishment, Round 3

Remember that Panorama documentary from 2005 highlighting problems at the Royal Sussex hospital? The whistle blower responsible for the undercover filming was a Ms Haywood, a nurse of 20-years experience. At worst you could claim she was a victim of the reality-TV craze, trying to get her 15-minutes of fame. At best she’s a public-spirited whistle blower taking a desperate step to highlight problems and bring about change. I’m inclined to place her near the later end of the spectrum myself.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), however, don’t share this view and had her struck off in April – she can no longer work as a nurse. The NMC was set up by the present government in 2002 in order to regulate nurses and midwives. Ms Haywood clearly embarrassed the government, but I’m sure this had nothing to do with their decision, bizarre as it appears. Even government health minister Ben Bradshaw was quick to criticise their decision in no uncertain terms.

As far as I know, the NMC didn’t feel inclined to take any action against the Royal Sussex or any of those shown to be neglecting patients – only the messenger. If anyone from the NMC is reading this, perhaps they could enlighten us?

Now there’s been another twist. Someone’s had the bright idea of nominating Ms Haywood for a the Patient’s Choice award, 2009 – the country’s favourite nurse as chosen by the patients themselves and run by the Nursing Standard, organ of the Royal Collage of Nursing (their union, in effect). Apparently when the NMC was approached by the BBC concerning this development they declined to comment.

I don’t know anything about the four other worthy nominees, but I know what message I want to send to the NMC – and everyone gets a vote.

So Vote Here

Sir Alan Turing?

If you know about computers, you’ll know Alan Turing was a great man. Without his pioneering theoretical work in the 1930s computing would not have developed as did; his work on code-breaking computers during the war helped win it, and he made a considerable contribution to the National Physical Laboratory once the war ended. The man was a genius, and we owe him a lot.

Unfortunately for him, the great man was queer and this got him into trouble with the law following an incident in 1952, after which he was hounded until his death in 1954.

He was awarded an OBE in 1945 in recognition of is work during the war, but there is now a campaign afoot award him a posthumous knighthood and apologise for his treatment at a time when homosexual acts were still illegal. Although it’s regrettable that society treated him, and others, so badly, it was illegal at the time. Not liking a law is no excuse for ignoring it.

John Graham-Cumming has started a petition to get something done about his treatment. Unfortunately it specifically calls for an apology over the prosecution rather than the climate that lead to it. However, it’s still a good cause and the support from the likes of Peter Tatchell isn’t enough to put me off. Unlike the campaigners today, Alan Turing’s world was discrete and should have been no one’s business but his own.

You can get at the petition here

Bailing out the devil

So the government’s big idea to save us from recession is to prop up the motor industry by giving everyone a £2000 discount on new cars, assuming you trade in an old one. Brilliant! This subsidy will keep the price of cars down while needlessly scrapping perfectly good vehicles that could have given many more years of service.

To make this lunacy palatable the usual emotive terms such as ‘gas guzzler’ and ‘old banger’ have been wheeled out again to try and hide the environmental nonsense of it all from the emotional, and anyone else not bothered to look more deeply into the matter.

And this is aside from the loans and government bail-outs taking place in England, Europe and the USA.

Wake up! We have too many cars because of an over-healthy motor industry able to pile them high and sell them cheap. If you want to reduce the number of cars then contracting the motor industry is the only way to do it. And right now it can be done ‘naturally’, without the need to legislate or tax.

Abandoning any veneer of environmental awareness the politicians will justify this subsidy by pointing to the jobs that would be lost. This is pure emotional blackmail as well as nonsense. If you have surplus workers and piles of cash available there are plenty of other more useful projects available. How about building facilities for sustainable transport with the same resources?

The reason, presumably, is that sustainable transport means just that. Once the infrastructure is in place it lasts, and you’ll end up with a load of workers with no more work unless you can think of further projects. Sustainable energy or agriculture, perhaps? Unfortunately we are stuck with politicians that can only see as far as the next election, and they have vested interests to placate in the mean time. But one thing we can learn from this – when the chips are down they don’t care a jot about the environment, carbon emissions or sustainability.